Sam Alvey sees it as a business trip, with pleasure as a perk.
Once a staple of the Ultimate Fighting Championship middleweight division, Sam Alvey will try to continue his climb at 205 pounds when he meets Antonio Rogerio Nogueira in a light heavyweight showcase at UFC Fight Night 137 on Sept. 22 at Geraldo Jose de Almeida Gymnasium in Sao Paulo, Brazil. “Smile’n Sam” plans to leave the event with his patented grin at the expense of a national hero.
After an 8-5 run at 185 pounds, Alvey made the switch to light heavyweight. It has been a successful transition, as the Wisconsin native has recorded back-to-back wins over Marcin Prachnio and Gian Villante.
“Pat Barry told me, ‘a happy fighter is a good fighter,’” Alvey said, “and I’m far happier here at 205.”
Often the impetus for a division change can be found in a fighter’s desire to avoid harsh weight cuts. However, Alvey’s weight cuts have not changed much. He still maintains the 225-pound walk-around weight he navigated as a middleweight.
“I felt just as good at 185 as I do at 205,” Alvey said.
Although Alvey enjoyed success as a middleweight, his move to the light heavyweight division represented a return to his fighting past. “The first 12 or 13 fights of my career were all at 205,” he said. All factors considered, the only real change has come in the form of a less-strict diet that has led to “an easier lifestyle.” Alvey’s most significant issue in the UFC has revolved around productivity, not the division in which he has competed. More specifically, he has struggled with offensive output.
“I think I have like the lowest punch count in the UFC,” Alvey said. “I need more output. It’s always been a problem I’ve been fighting with.”
The former Maximum Fighting Championship titleholder boasts 19 knockouts among his 33 career victories, so he understands the danger his power presents to his opponents. Alvey believes he spends too much time searching for the right moment to unleash his hands -- a quirk that has cost him from time to time.
“When I do throw and it connects, people usually fall over, [but then] I get too comfortable playing to that big punch,” he said. “Too often I walk forward trying to get [an opponent] to throw, [and] I won’t start [the exchange].”
Even though he finds himself 44 fights deep into his career, Alvey does not adhere to the you-can’t-teach-an-old-dog-new-tricks idea. He feels something as simple as making better use of his jab could make all the difference. Alvey cites his lack of offensive production as the reason his battle with Villante at UFC Fight Night 131 ended with a split decision victory instead of a spectacular finish, especially when one considers the fact that he staggered the New Yorker early on. He does not want to make the same mistake again.
Alvey understands the opportunity ahead of him. Facing an iconic Brazilian in Brazil means he may not find favor with the judges if his fight with Nogueira goes the distance. To avoid any close calls, Alvey has prepared for prime “Minotoro,” even though the Pride Fighting Championships veteran will enter the cage at 42 years of age and has not fought since November 2016.
“I’m preparing for the guy that beat my coach [Dan Henderson in 2005]. I’m not sleeping on him one bit,” he said. “Especially a guy that has been out of the cage nearly two years now, he’s going to be hungry.”
Nogueira has won just once in his past four appearances. Questions abound regarding the Brazilian, who was sent to the sidelines by a failed United States Anti-Doping Agency drug test. Even so, Alvey views him as a dangerous challenger: “I don’t think it takes anything away from it.” He has viewed an extensive amount of footage on Nogueira and plans to be prepared for wherever the fight goes.
“I’m training that wherever it goes I will be able to excel [and] finish him,” Alvey said. “I’m not dedicated to knocking him out. By whatever means necessary, I want to finish this fight.”
The longtime Team Quest representative admits that competing abroad against a fighter who has given so much to the sport gets his blood pumping. Unlike some fighters, Alvey enjoys fighting outside of the United States. It was one of the factors that made his pre-UFC career worthwhile, even though he did not bring in much money for his efforts. Alvey -- who has fought in New Zealand, Mexico, Canada, Trinidad and Tobago, Poland, Australia and Brazil -- will travel to Sao Paulo a week in advance to see some of the sights with his wife.
“Most of my career has been traveling international,” he said. “Before getting to the UFC, I never made any money fighting, so I just liked fighting in places so I would get a free trip there.”